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NSW Cup 2022 Season Preview | Knights

The NSWRL has cast its eye over the 12 teams who will take part in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup in 2022, with the opening round to kick off on Saturday 12 March. The state’s premier competition remains a valuable pathway for higher honours with 52 players going on last season to play in the NRL. Today, the Newcastle Knights.

2021

The number five figured prominently for the Knights in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup last year.

The Newcastle team finished fifth on the ladder and had five players graduate to the NRL: Brayden Musgrove (wing), Simi Sasagi (half), Jirah Momisea (back row), Mat Croker (prop) and Dominic Young (centre).

The squad had their ups and downs in grabbing six wins but also six losses in 2021. However, they showed a fair bit of ticker as well.

After being stung 50-6 by Western Suburbs in round three, the Knights drew 14-14 with the Magpies in Round 15, which ended up being the last game of The Knock-On Effect competition before it was abandoned because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first four rounds were telling for how the season might pan out – a first-up loss to the Mounties, then a win over the Jets, the Magpies loss and then a win against the Dragons.

“It always depends on your injuries up top (in NRL),” said the Knights NSW Cup coach and True Blue Mark O’Meley.

“Andrew Ryan did a great job last year with the squad he had, given the ebb and flow of the season. We didn’t have a Jersey Flegg team so we had a lot of younger players having to transition to The Knock-On Effect.

“Those players that did graduate even higher up to the NRL made Andrew very proud. And it’s not easy because you may get some injuries and HIAs and in some cases we had no-one left on the bench with half-a-game still to go.”

Managing those situations for a coach and his players builds resilience and O’Meley wants to carry that trait forward from 2021 right through 2022.

“Obviously you’ve got to nurture your future players and develop them, alongside all the players coming back for another season – harnessing all that passion and desire to wear that Knights jumper,” he said.

“You want them to pull on the Knights colours with pride whether it’s the NRL or The Knock-On Effect.”

This season

Recruitment has been a local focus for O’Meley this year. He’s got more than inkling of what the Knights future looks like having coached Harold Matthews Cup last year.

“Our Denton Engineering Cup between the Newcastle and Central Coast teams is a pretty high standard so the players we’ve brought into the part-time program from there are nearly all locals,” he said.

“Quite a few of them got a run in the NRL trials showing the standard is probably equivalent to the Ron Massey Cup.”

Seven players named in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup side for round one against the North Sydney Bears on Sunday 13 March played against the Storm in the second NRL trial, while five took part in the first trial against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

One of those was winger Nick O’Meley – the coach’s oldest son.

“He still lives with me, so it’s probably made our relationship a little closer,” O’Meley said.

“Previously he’s been with the Bears and Roosters but last year was with ‘Bobcat’ here at the Knights.

“I don’t try to talk too much footy with him at home – we both want to switch off. We are similar personalities so we tend to butt heads but coaching him now has brought us closer.

“For me it’s easy – you don’t deliver, you won’t play – and he’s been raised that way.”

Players to watch

“I’ve got guys like Dylan Lucas (centre) knocking on the door, along with the other guys who played some NRL last year.

“Liam Wilkinson (hooker) is another who could see some first grade. I don’t like naming kids because I don’t want to put pressure on them. But if you get the chance to aim higher then that pressure comes anyway.

“Dylan Phythian (halfback) is another and he’s my captain this year. He’s done the hard yards with a couple of knee reconstructions. But he’s come back to us and trained really hard and really well since his stint at the Gold Coast.

“I’m sure he’s got a point to prove after all those setbacks. The fight in him makes him a good leader.”

One player who won’t be there, despite three games of NRL as a 19-year-old last year, is Simi Sasagi. He’s back in Jersey Flegg as O’Meley said the club wants to keep players in their age groups now as much as possible.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.